Gentlemen by day – macho by night, Parfums Retro Santal Superbe & Grand Cuir

Parfums Retro is a new niche perfume brand that was introduced in 2013. The house is based in the United States and was founded by Jeffrey Dame, the men who created Perfume of Life, one of the first forums for perfume lovers out there. Jeffrey is also a head of Hypoluxe that is responsible for the US distribution of fragrances from some niche brands (like M.Micallef, Andy Tauer). For his parfum maison Jeffrey teamed up with perfumer Hugh Spencer and the main idea is to create classy, retro, “old-school” perfumes in a modern, contemporary way. They want to dedicate their perfume to men.

Santal Superbe opens in a very classy and “old-fashioned” kind of way. The first whiff provides the classic aroma of a traditional fougere blend. There’s a herbal, slightly floral and green lavender accord paired with the characteristic scent of coumarin which gives more balsamic and a tad creamy edge with a hint of spiciness. It kind of feels like lavender and roasted almonds. This combination is truly masculine and aromatic to the power of two. These two notes will vibrate inside your nose.

The first impression lasts up to 30 minutes, becoming weaker minute after minute and guiding us to the 2nd stage of Santal Superbe development. The sandalwood accord in this perfume has been showed in 3 different ways. At first, when there’s still a little bit of lavender and coumarin in the background, it smells bright and clean, like a well-groomed men who puts on his best shirt and a suit. But after some time the scent evolves. The sandalwood softness has a creamy vibe to it. The feeling is velvety smooth, elegant and sophisticated. The sandalwood is a star of this blend but it doesn’t scream, it’s not the loudest part of the fragrance. As the fragrance makes progress on your skin, sandalwood seems to become a bit more substantial and some animalic (think musky) elements appear behind it. There’s something slightly sweaty to it. The smell of men sex appeal.

Sandalwood note remains in the perfume until late hours but later it plays a role of a base note, rather than being the center of attention. After 3 hours Santal Superbe becomes aromatic once again. The crispiness of mint, clary sage and geranium add the obvious masculine style to this creation. Galbanum and celery seeds gave the green effect to the later parts of the scent development, but this verdancy wasn’t very intensive. I smelled the petitgrain with the dusty vibe and pimento gave a colder, metallic sensation. The late drydown was a bit smoky and woody on me, there was some cedarwood. I didn’t detect the lime mentioned in the notes list.

Grand Cuir starts with a full-fledged leather note. It’s bold and big with a lot of animalic properties in my opinion. It gives a smell that makes me think of horse saddle and an artisan leather workshop, where you can smell the chemicals, tannins and pigments. The scent of leather in this perfume was created by combining labdanum with birch tar. After 15 minutes the fragrance turns a bit more herbal with clary sage as a dominant herb here. It gives some sweetness and verdancy.

30 minutes later the Grand Cuir badass is not as bad as his appearances. At some point a beautiful orange flower joins the composition adding the white floral nuances to this masculine blend. Small portions of lavender and geranium make it for a crispy and fresher finish, but they don’t change the overall look of the guy wearing this fragrance. At the 1 hour mark you could start smelling the roses, red and quite oriental in style. They are spiced by the sharper aroma of carnations. Later the spiciness becomes more pronounced and its power arises. Cinnamon (leaf oil) adds a sparkling spiciness but it’s not as great as the essence of cinnamon bark (this one is also sweet and sugary). Tarragon on the other hand introduces the element of spicy tones but with more dry, hay-like finish.

For the next couple of hours Grand Cuir presents all of the notes in different configurations. The leathery accord flies in circles around the wearer, meeting the other accord, such as the cinnamon leaf oil, lavender, orange flower. I particularly like the combined flavors of the orange flower & leather. Few hours later and the drydown starts to mark its presence. In there you will find the elegant sandalwood which is rather smooth and rendered in a dry way, lacking the luscious creamy facet. Moss from pine together with patchouli add depth to the composition and they create a powdery, dusty feeling around themselves. There’s also some rosewood which has a soft and luxurious vibe. In the very end, musk with some dirty elements finishes the blend.

Parfums Retro Grand Cuir and Santal Superbe are two totally different perfumes but there’s at least one thing they share in common – they were created with a thought of a men. They were created so that the male perfume users could have a scent just for themselves and that worked really well, if you ask me. Santal Superbe is more of a gentlemen perfume while Grand Cuir is bolder, ideal for the self-confident men who likes to be the leader. He might be a macho but he has some feelings too! Both fragrances have a nice, balanced development, their sillage is good and they last for around 8 hours, allowing you to enjoy the scent.

Both fragrances are eau de parfum concentrated and are available in 50ml bottles. Retail price is $115. The nose who worked on the compositions is Hugh Spencer.

[note] samples were a courtesy of Jeffrey Dame; photos: 1, 2

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12 thoughts on “Gentlemen by day – macho by night, Parfums Retro Santal Superbe & Grand Cuir

  1. rickyrebarco says:

    I have samples of these from Jeffrey Dame but had not tried them yet. Now I’m going to have my husband wear them and I’ll sniff! The Santal Superbe definitely sounds like something I would like. Thanks for reviewing these!

  2. Even though these are for men, I think I need to try Santal Superbe. I love a fougere, and the development of the sandalwood accord here sounds fascinating!

  3. I really like Grand Cuir and can’t wait to sniff the new one.
    Thanks Lucasai

  4. Thank you Lucas for such a great review, I greatly appreciate your finding a patch of skin and the time to explore the news men’s scents from Parfums Rétro. Your words ring true, as they always do. “Superbe” as one might say. Jeffrey Dame

  5. Laurels says:

    I’ve smelled Grand Cuir, and it is a beautiful, true-smelling leather. It is too “masculine” for me to wear comfortably, but would be great on a man (or a woman who could pull it off). Santal Superbe sounds amazing, too.

  6. hajusuuri says:

    Hello sweetie, I have a sample of Grand Cuir from the very generous Jeffrey Dame. I have not yet tried it but will now move it to the top of my list once I gef home from vacation.

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